A Creative DC is a weekly series showcasing all aspects of a creative lifestyle in the District. The city's full and part-time doers and makers, how + where they live, gather, and create, and what they do, make, and notice. For more about the project click here. Follow along here at Panda Head and at @aCreativeDC on Instagram, and hashtag your own DC lifestyle with #aCreativeDC. Your life looks good here.
One of the pillars of the A Creative DC project is that creativity is so much larger than just "the arts," and also that side projects, hobbies, and interests are as valid and as deserving of acknowledgment + support as full time hustles and self-employment. That said, DC's growing creative economy is allowing – much more so now than in years past – for those who ARE compelled to make the leap from more traditional employment the ability to hammer out an actual and viable career.
In that vein, I'm thrilled to introduce fashion + portrait photographer Emma McAlary in the context of the A Creative DC series. I count her as a personal friend and have worked with her more than once, and in the interview below she's done an honest and very real job of outlining of how her career path became apparent and what it took (and is taking) to get there – "there" being financial sustainability. It's a valuable read for anyone considering going a similar route, and an interesting one regardless of whether your own creative DC involves making portraits, throwing dinner parties, or just showing support for any and all of its million and one facets.
"I'm Emma McAlary and I'm 29. I grew up in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area and I live in Alexandria, VA. I'm in DC almost daily – at least 5 out of 7 days of the week. Most of my meetings, clients and projects are located in DC. It's my stomping ground!"
When did you get started taking photos?
I've been snapping photos of everything since I was a kid and my sister handed down a blue Fisher Price camera to me. I was always heavily influenced by my Dad's collection of photographs, and he gave me all my grandfather's old cameras. Photography is something I felt I had to do. I have so many random pictures of everything including friend hangouts, weird objects, strange landscapes. I must say that looking back on those early photographs is hilarious beacause they are so bad! In high school I took the obligatory photography classes and fell in love even further. I always denied that it could be a career, so I kept photography in my back pocket as a hobby and went on to school for other things.
And when did you make your first moves towards being a full-time photographer?
I've made small moves towards this point for the past couple of years, but my big moves came at the end of last year. The previous year I'd quit working at my full time job and I traveled. I was in a long distance relationship so it afforded me an opportunity to just travel and take pictures. I kept a part-time job and just started shooting for people that I met. I did a bunch of free and cheap stuff at first, just to get my name out there. People knew people and starting saying "Hey, I know a photographer named Emma McAlary." At the end of last year paying jobs starting coming and it has grown ever since. I still have a long ways to go, but it's been such an exciting growth.
Who are you working with on a regular basis?
The two clients I work with most are DeNada Design
and Monling Lee
for her Color Index
project. Another client I work with often is Redeem
and we just collaborated with Monling. I can't wait to share those pictures with the world! I've also been doing a bit of work as part of the El Camino
team and I've worked with Mutiny
several times. A new, more recent client that I've been working with is DC Style Factory
More with Emma – including how she deals with self-doubt and her advice to young photographers – after the jump. All photos Emma McAlary, for various clients
Read more »
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